Long-tailed tits are bucking the trend of many UK birds

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Several days of wet and windy weather have ensured that most wildlife has gone to ground.

What bird or bee wants to venture out when there are gusts of over 30 miles per hour to contend with?

However, during one of the calmer interludes the other day I was pleased to observe a pair of long tailed tits taking turns at the coconut feeder. I spot these birds in the area fairly regularly, but not usually actually in the garden itself. I watched them through binoculars to see their beauty in detail. Apart from their eponymous tail, they have lovely pink, black and white markings and the adults retain a cute fluffiness that makes them very appealing. Unusually for many UK bird species, they are on the increase – helped by the fact that so many people put out bird food in their gardens.

In winter time, long tailed tits form loose flocks of up to 10 or more individuals and spend the night snuggled up together on a branch to keep warm. Being tiny birds, they lose heat easily on chilly nights so spending the night huddled together is a practical survival technique. Come spring, the flock splits off into pairs and they set about building exquisite cup like nests.

Presumably the ones I saw in the garden are building a nest somewhere nearby, but it will be hidden deep inside a hedge, shrub or tree. Apparently, they line the nests with up to 2,000 feathers, which is quite a feat.

There is a much rarer species of tit that can only be seen in the north of Scotland, in ancient Caledonian pine forests and Scots pine plantations. This is the crested tit. Nan Shepherd (who can be seen on a £5 note) has written engagingly about them in her book The Living Mountain, so I defer to her prose to describe them. She talks of “the tiny crested tit…showing himself about, now back, now front, now side, keeping each pose for a moment before flirting to a new one on a higher or a lower twig. A finished mannequin.” It is on my list of birds to try and see at some point – although they are easier to spot in winter, so I think I’ve perhaps missed the boat for this year.